The Cinedelphia.com / Japan American Society of Greater Philadelphia-presented series is back for its seventh installment! As always, all screenings are free, projected digitally, and held at PhilaMOCA (531 N. 12th Street). It’s a real solid lineup this time around, check it out:
WED January 29, 2014 @ PhilaMOCA : Ghost Story of the Snow Witch (1968)
WED February 5, 2014 @ PhilaMOCA : Seisaku’s Wife (1965)
WED February 12, 2014 @ PhilaMOCA : Lost Chapter of Snow: Passion (1985)
WED February 19, 2014 @ PhilaMOCA : The Crazy Family (1984)
WED February 26, 2014 @ PhilaMOCA : A Journey Through Fairyland (1985)
WED March 5, 2014 @ PhilaMOCA : The Youth Killer (1976)
WED January 29, 2014 @ PhilaMOCA
Ghost Story of the Snow Witch (1968)
Dir. Tokuzo Tanaka, 79 min.
We’re kicking off the season with a suitably freezing film from the Daiei horror vaults (vaults that include the Yokai Monsters series, my faves). Adapted from the Lafcadio Hearn story in an abridged version by Kobayashi in his Kwaidan anthology just a few years earlier, Ghost Story concerns a young apprentice’s fateful encounter with the titular snow witch and his subsequent successes and hardships. Stylishly bleak with an atmosphere that brings to mind Japanese horror classics like Onibaba, Kuroneko, and all of those swamp/pond/tree-based ghost stories. Director Tanaka isn’t a name you hear very often though he directed 50 films in his career including a bunch of Zatoichi’s and a couple of the Sleepy Eyes of Death films. Frigid, fright-filled fun for the dead of winter.
WED February 5, 2014 @ PhilaMOCA
Seisaku’s Wife (1965)
Dir. Yasuzo Masumura, 93 min.
Director Masumura (UJ screened his Love for an Idiot last year) helmed over 60 films in his 25 year career within an impressive array of genres, from yakuza films to delinquent youth films to corporate thrillers like his famed Giants and Toys (1958) and The Black Test Car (1962). 1965’s Seisaku’s Wife is a retelling of a 1924 film that concerned a woman so in love with her husband that she goes to (almost) In the Realm of the Senses-level precautions to prevent his return to war (the Russo-Japanese War, preserving the time period of the original). Veteran actress Ayako Wakao won the Best Actress trophy at the Japanese equivalent of the Oscars for her portrayal of the titular role. A rewarding drama in that distinctly downbeat Japanese sort of way.
WED February 12, 2014 @ PhilaMOCA
Lost Chapter of Snow: Passion (1985)
Dir. Shinji Somai, 93 min.
This is the third Shinji Somai UJ has featured following this past season’s The Friends and the 2011 screening of Typhoon Club (the latter being one of the most important Japanese films of the 1980s). Lost Chapter of Snow: Passion traces the life of an orphan from an imprisoned child to a murderous adult in a thematic manner that feels appropriately more mature than his adolescent-focused films. The film is perhaps best known for its opening 14 minute (!) single take that glides along locations, characters, and eras; a true wonder to behold. And the film doesn’t hold back on its winter landscapes so this is another good watch for the season.
WED February 19, 2014 @ PhilaMOCA
The Crazy Family (1984)
Dir. Sogo Ishii, 106 min.
Forever to be remembered as one of the most exciting Japanese filmmakers of the late 20th century, Sogo Ishii’s The Crazy Family can be viewed as the close of the hyperactive filmmaker’s early punk-fueled period as he didn’t make another feature-length fiction film until the mid-90s, returning as a much more disciplined filmmaker (with the exception of 2001’s insane Electric Dragon 80,000 V). The most ordinary of Japanese working class families move into a spacious suburban home only to have their lives turn upside down as their loved ones turn on each other. Completely unpredictable and as black as comedy gets, this is the flat out crazy selection of this UJ season. Wild stuff!
WED February 26, 2014 @ PhilaMOCA
A Journey Through Fairyland (1985)
Dir. Masami Hata, 90 min.
A rare English-language, family-friendly screening! A Fantasia-like celebration of classical music from Sanrio, the creators of Hello Kitty and producers of a whole bunch of fun animated features in the late 70s/early 80s including the Osamu Tezuka-created Unico films. A Journey Through Fairyland concerns the dreamtime adventures of a young boy and a flower fairy as they travel though a Little Nemo-like landscape that is best described as “trippy”. The film’s soundtrack features work by all of the classical composer greats including Beethoven, Bach, Stravinsky, and Debussy. Released on VHS in the States back in 1995, this animated almost-masterpiece has sadly been forgotten. But that’s what Unknown Japan is here to remedy.
WED March 5, 2013 @ PhilaMOCA
The Youth Killer (1976)
Dir. Kazuhiko Hasegawa, 132 min.
During the second season of UJ I screened one of my very favorite films, Hasegawa’s The Man Who Stole the Sun and it was only a matter of time before I got around to the filmmaker’s 1976 debut feature, which is the only other film he ever directed. The ATG-producedThe Youth Killer may lack the comedy of Sun, but it shares the same artsy, pop-tinged nihilism that will forever define Hasegawa’s short directorial career. Hasegawa approaches this true story of a young man who kills his parents in the name of love (kinda) with the same sense of realism that defined many of the Japanese New Wave’s unflinching portraits of youth. The most stylish and meditative of criminal-couple-on-the-run films, so much so that I shouldn’t even try to fit it into a genre. Brilliant stuff and a nice, slow finish to our winter 2014 season.